Thursday, 23 August 2012

Review: Tales of Graces F (PS3)

Tales of Graces F is a game that may not have wide appeal, however, if you are looking for a fun JRPG (Japanese Role-Playing Game) with a good story and a great battle system, this is definitely for you.

The game starts with the main character adventurous Asbel Lhant and his younger, nervous brother Hubert exploring the forbidden Lhant Hill. While there, they meet a purple-haired girl who is lying in a flower field and does not know her name or where she comes from. Asbel then decides to bring the unknown girl back to Lhant figuring it may trigger some memories.

You are then introduced to Asbel’s childhood friend Cheria, who likes to follow Asbel, but suffers from a condition and therefore is very sickly and cannot venture far, but she agrees to help find where the mystery girl comes from. Once they return to Lhant, you find that Asbel is the first born of the Lhant family, therefore, heir to the Lhant Territories. Though he is the heir, he is quite defiant against his father and wishes to become a knight instead. He then decides to protect the unnamed girl against his father’s wishes, and names her Sophie after a sopheria flower, aptly named seeing as they found her in a flowerbed.

Asbel’s father tells Asbel and Hubert that a very important family will be staying with them for a while, and while they have a boy around the same age as Asbel, they are not to go anywhere near the family. Asbel, being defiant, decides to meet the boy and you are introduced to Prince Richard, who is only used to helping others when he can get something in return. He befriends Asbel and the group, and invites them to his castle in his father’s land; however they will have to sneak in using the secret tunnels. The group waits for Richard, he never shows, so they decide to go exploring the tunnels figuring they’d meet up with him. However, they meet up with some unfortunate events; this is where the game gets interesting and the game advances 7 years later. However, getting to this point takes about 3 hours, and though the back story adds a lot of character development, it is a bit long.

Tales of Graces F's deep real-time battle system is where the game shines. Fans of the Tales’ series are familiar with the Artes system, this game upgrades on that system. For those not familiar with the Artes, it is what allows you to execute different combos during battle. In the other Tales games, you would mash the attack button and at the end, mix it up with an arte which is a special attack by using the directional buttons.

In this game, there are A-Artes and B-Artes. There are many different combos you can pull off with this by using the directional buttons before and during a combo, you can combo simply by using A-artes consistently, but you can also mix A-Artes with B-Artes to create a damaging and cool looking combo. However, with that said, you have to be careful with your combo, because you are limited to the number of attacks you can do as indicated by your command points (CP). You can, however, upgrade your CP by dodging, blocking, and attacking at proper times. CP will only upgrade for that battle however, so make sure you become experienced with being both offensive and defensive.

New artes are obtainable through the Title system. Each character gains titles throughout the game, whether through battles or story events. It’s up to you which title you would like to use for each character, some may be more for offense, some for defense, or otherwise. You may find a new title may have another skill you’ve never seen before, or maybe an upgrade to an existing skill, and there are a lot to choose from as each character has a whole screen filled with possible titles.

Though the battle system can be really fun and interesting, it does however have its faults, the main one being its unbalanced difficulty. As you run across the maps, it is your choice whether you would like to avoid battles when enemies are easy to get through, or fight enemies to level up, I would suggest the latter. As easy as most of these random battles may be, it is essential to level up as much as possible as the bosses are quite difficult. You may breeze through a level finishing fights within 10-20 seconds, but the boss may kill you in a few hits. This leads to grinding in an already lengthy game.

Graphics look good overall, but since this is a port from Wii to PS3, there are some visual issues. Character models look great and are in HD now, but background visuals could use some work, they have received minimal attention from the original. Music is very similar to the other Tales games, nothing amazing or memorable, but it suits the game well enough. Voice acting works for the game, but again, nothing memorable.

Tales of Graces F is a good game and though the story may seem like a typical JRPG, it does stray away from the stereotypes as the story progresses, and leaves you wanting to know what will happen next.

- J'Tonello

The Good:
- Very intriguing story.
- Character models have been greatly improved from Wii version.
- Real-time battle system.

The Bad:
- May not appeal to a wide audience
- Unbalanced difficulty
- Opening chapter is too long

Score: 7.5 / 10